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Backyard Cinema’s Christmas Labyrinth review: A wonderfully festive movie experience

Backyard Cinema Christmas Labyrinth © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Backyard Cinema has created a Christmas Labyrinth at Winterville at Clapham Common

This year sees Backyard Cinema launching their biggest film events to date. Setting up camp at festive experience Winterville is the Christmas Labyrinth. I’ve been going to Backyard Cinema events for several years and am always impressed by the various theme they come up with. It’s safe to say they’ve surpassed their previous themes with a fantastically Christmassy immersive experience on Clapham Common.

Backyard Cinema Christmas Labyrinth © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Which door will you choose?

The Christmas Labyrinth is one of two Backyard Cinema’s festive screening experiences – the other being The Snowman Experience at Winter Wonderland. This year, Backyard Cinema has taken over a large section of Winterville, with their huge, cosy tent hosting two screening rooms, a huge labyrinth adventure, cinemas bars, as well as a lobby bar with live entertainment.

Upon arrival, you can stop for a drink at the bar or head straight in to start your journey. Our evening began in a magical room, with a mysterious voice urging us to choose one of four different doors. I’m used to taking a special route to get to Backyard Cinema’s screening room, but this year’s Labyrinth experience is clearly much bigger, with many choices for the visitor. Although you are encouraged to take a separate door from your friend, my pal and I decided to take the same one and headed into the ‘Jester’ door, being the pair of jokers are we (according to my friend!). Our journey through the maze was disorientating, confusing, but exciting as we figured out what way to go. Finally, we ended up in a twinkling forest – which made me feel like I was in Narnia – which opened to the screening room.

Backyard Cinema Christmas Labyrinth © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

We walked through a magical labyrinth to the screening room

While the previous Backyard beanbags have always been comfortable, there’s some higher, bulkier and even cosier ones for their new Winterville home. My friend and I claimed a good set of beanbags with a prime position and headed to the nearby bar for some festive drinks. There’s a selection of craft beer, soft drinks, wine, prosecco and winter warmers. I’m a sucker for hot booze at the time of year so a mulled cider and rum was an easy choice… one I made twice as it happens. As you would expect for a cinema, there’s the typical snacks, including Proper Corn popcorn and pic and mix sweets. The bar is open throughout the screening should you feel the need to refresh yourself.

On our visit last week, we were watching the musical film The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron. We had never seen it before and I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. Throughout the film, I was really comfortable all settled in the beanbag, although I did use one of the BC provided blankets towards the last half hour to warm me up even further. Overall, it was a entertaining evening and the labyrinth was a creative and fun way to enter the cinema. Tickets are already sold out for many dates in the run-up to Christmas so I recommend buying them ASAP.

  • Backyard Cinema’s Christmas Labyrinth runs until 22 December 2018. At Winterville (entrance just north of the Long Pond), Clapham Common, SW4 9BX. Nearest stations: Clapham Common or Clapham South. Tickets: Adults from £18.98, Children from £9.98. Stalls, premium and loungers available. For booking, visit the Backyard Cinema website.

  • Backyard Cinema Presents: The Snowman™ Experience at Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, W2. Under 6 January 2019. Nearest stations: Hyde Park Corner or Marble Arch. Tickets (vary between standard, off-peak, and peak): Adults/teen £9.95-£14.95, Children £6.96-£12.95. For booking, visit the Winter Wonderland website. Read Metro Girl’s review of the Snowman Experience.

To find out what’s on in London in December, click here.

For a guide to London’s Christmas markets and fairs, click here.

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The Wild Wild West comes to West London at the Moonshine Saloon

Moonshine Saloon © Matt Martin photography

Moonshine Saloon is an immersive new pop-up bar coming to the King’s Road
© Matt Martin photography

Launching just in time for summer is an exciting new drinking concept. Moonshine Saloon will bring an immersive Wild West experience to the streets of West London. The pop-up BYOB bar comes from the same team behind the hugely popular Alcotraz. Launching on 31 May, Moonshine Saloon are pitching their waggons on the King’s Road for a limited three-month run.

Moonshine Saloon © Matt Martin photography

Guests will be invited to dress like a cowboy
© Matt Martin photography

The pop-up will let wannabe cowboys step into the Wild West’s undercover world of moonshine. Arriving at the entrance with their own booze in hand, apprentice moonshiners will head down a street that looks straight out of the dusty old west. They’ll stop with a tailor to get measured up for cowboy gear and Stetson hats so they blend in and don’t attract the Sheriff’s attention.

Once, they are suited and Stetson-ed up, guests will be given exclusive access into the shadiest spirit making business as they are welcomed in by the King of the Moonshiners. Heading downstairs to the Saloon itself, apprentice Moonshiners can try their hand at card and dice games, share their wildest stories of life in the West and enjoy their personalised moonshine cocktails. The Saloon’s talented moonshine pros – aka the mixologists – will be creating your own special cocktail with your choice of liquor. Those who successfully manage to evade the long arm of the law, can also stop for a refreshment in the General Store before heading back to their ranch.

Founder Sam Shearman explained: “With Alcotraz we created London’s first immersive cocktail bar, which placed guests at the centre of the action and allowed for theatre to take place around them whilst delicious cocktails were enjoyed. Moonshine Saloon will take this to a completely new scale, creating a new world as opposed to simply a new bar!”

  • Moonshine Saloon is open from 31 May 2018 – 5 January 2019. At 535 Kings Road, Fulham, SW10 0SZ. Nearest station: Fulham Broadway. Open Wed-Fri 6.15pm-10.15pm, Sat 12.15pm-11pm. Booking fee: £33.99 (includes 4 cocktails from brought drink of choice and 1hr 45m inside the saloon). Bookings can be made on the Moonshine Saloon website or DesignMyNight.

To find out what’s on in London in December, click here.

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Somnai review: A surreal night in an immersive and virtual reality experience

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Somnai is an immersive virtual reality experience

Anyone who read my blog often or follows my Instagram account has probably worked out I’m a fan of immersive theatre and experiences. The word has become somewhat of a buzzword in the events industry in recent years and I’ve had a range of brilliant to mediocre ‘immersive’ experiences. However, the recent resurgence in popularity of virtual reality (VR) technology, means this type of production can utilise another platform to expand their scope. Recently, a group of friends and I went along to Somnai, which has been described by its makers dotdotdot as a ‘live, multi-sensory experience with immersive technologies’.

Somnai © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Each ‘patient’ is given an ID bracelet

Checking out the website ahead of its March launch, there were little clues on what a Somnai session would be like. The event is marketed as a type of sleep clinic, with the chilling warning ‘may cause acute death’. Now, of course, this warning cannot be taken literally, but speaking in past tense, it certainly gets your heart racing at points. Somnai is located in a large, unassuming warehouse in Clerkenwell. You are advised to avoid alcohol beforehand so my five sober friends and I arrived in the clinical white reception, slightly apprehensive about what lay ahead. We were ‘checked in’ to the clinic, as we handed in our bags and coats and were given a Fitbit, a dressing gown and padded sleep socks. One by one, we were taken into a small room, where silent assistants scanned our faces with 3D mapping, which all felt rather Black Mirror.

We started our experience in our group of six, meeting our sleep guide, an ethereal and spiritual woman who eased us into the experience with a few probing questions about our dreams (e.g. if you could fly anywhere, where would you go? What motivates you?). We start by winding down and relaxing with a bedtime story as we lie on a giant teddy bear, before zooming through the galaxy under a planetarium-style sky.

The main phase of Somnai is putting on our ‘sleep masks’ – our virtual reality masks – and beginning our VR journey. I haven’t tried virtual reality since its infancy in the 1990s and it’s certainly come on since then (and I would hope so too!). We moved through various surreal landscapes, from underwater kingdoms to grand canyons. Despite a part of my brain not knowing this was real, I found it quite unsettling to step off the side of a cliff or ledge, which was the process to changing ‘worlds’ or ‘zones’. In addition to what we were seeing, we could use our senses by touching, such as feeling the wooden plank ‘drawbridge’ we were crossing under my feet, or stroking the furry plant life in the ocean world. The whole VR experience was amazing and disorienting at the same time. Discussing it afterwards, I realised I had been quite fearful during it and had perhaps become too immersed in these bizarre environments we thought we were in.

Somnai © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Ready to sleep? The experience has been styled as a visit to a sleep clinic

Following the VR walkabout, our group was separated and two of us ended up in a very strange and spooky set of rooms. Without giving too much away, we were given a choice, ultimately made the wrong one, and ended our Somnai journey with a particularly scary 2nd session with the VR cameras. For this, our friends and I were reunited in a white hospital ward with masked attendants guiding us to lie in bed and putting on our ‘sleep masks’. I felt like we were in an asylum in a horror film. For the two of us who made the wrong choice, what we saw in the VR was rather unsettling and sent our heart rates up.

Finally, we all ended up in the digital bar, which is constantly evolving with different phases, each with a matching cocktail menu. If you download their app, your cocktail should do strange things when you scan it. With the app, we were able to check our heart rate throughout the process and see a quite horrifying (in my case!) 3D scan of my head. Overall, it was interestingly weird and enjoyable. The plot wasn’t quite coherent, but the mix of senses, VR sights and the cast provided a new and thought-provoking experience. Our group had much to discuss in the cocktail bar afterwards as we discussed our different experiences and interpreted meaning from the various surreal levels. If you’re intrigued about virtual reality, I recommend checking it out while it’s still on.

  • Somnai, 2 Pear Tree Street, Clerkenwell, EC1V 3SB. Nearest station: Farringdon or Old Street. Tickets: From £35 (discount for groups of six). On now until 3 August 2018. For booking, visit the Somnai website.

For a guide to what’s on in London in August, click here.

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Harmonics in Space by Fred Butler: Lift your spirits at this multi-layered, sensory experience

Go wild in Neverland for NTV Spring Break

Do you remember the wild and debauched MTV Spring Break footage in the late ’90s? This Spring, you will have the option to throw caution to the wind and party like it’s 1998 in an immersive adult playground inspired by JM Barrie’s Neverland. Over 19-21 April 2018, Park Village Studios in Regents Park will be transformed for NTV Spring Park, a multi-layered event combining food, drink and partying. Expect to see a reimagining of Peter Pan’s lost land, including hipster Lost Boys, geezer Pirates, a trustafarian Tiger Lily, a tattooed Tinkerbell and a gangsta rapping Croc.

Guests are invited to start their journey in the relative calm of the Darlings’ home, where they will be offered a drink by George and Mary Darling – parents of Wendy, John and Michael. It isn’t long, before revellers move into Neverland, where they have an array of options to choose from. For those feeling a bit peckish, the Lost Boys are hosting their street food collective, featuring a range of world foods, including fish tacos, hot’n’sour wings, brioche three-cheese toasties, dulce de leche churros, among many other treats.

If you’re ready for it, head to Tinkerbell’s Bar, an Austin-style dive bar with rockabilly memorabilia, neon signs, and thrash metal, serving Fukk’n Intense Dark’n’Stormies cocktails. Nearby is Crock’s Territory, home to hip-hop legend Croc, the unofficial king of Neverland. Check him out as he films his latest music video with his dancers and b-boys sipping malt liquor. When you want to take things up a notch, head to Neverland Camp, where zenned out Tiger Lily and her new age pals Sebastian, Ziggy et al hang out by the campfire. This chill out zone offers arts and crafts workshops, massages, guru sessions and Jarr Kombucha cocktails. Meanwhile, Jimmy ‘Ook and his pirates are hiding out in a hidden East London gangster den, where they will challenge guests to a game of red/black/high/low in the hope of winning some perks.

Finally, the night climaxes with the NTV Dance Off, where the gangs come face-to-face and show off their moves. Once the winner is crowned, guests are welcome to party to the sounds of DJ Seldom Cinq and his hype man Ya Boi JC. The event is the long-awaited return from Shuttlecock Inc, famous for their previous immersive productions Mile High, Rumble at the Deli and The Blue Lotus Opium Den.

  • Shuttlecock Inc Presents NTV Spring Break is on from 19-21 April 2018. At Park Village Studios, Park Village East, Regents Park, NW1 7PX. Nearest station: Mornington Crescent. Tickets: Standard £40pp (early bird £35pp), includes entry, 1x cocktail, 2x street food tokens and all the entertainment. VIP £65pp, includes access all areas pass, min. 4x cocktails, 4x street food tokens and all the entertainment. For tickets, visit the Shuttlecock website.
NTV Spring Break

The Lost Boys will be serving up some street food

To find out what else is on in April in London, click here.

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Neverland at Vault Festival review: An immersive journey through mirth and misfortune

© S R Taylor Photography

Peter Llewelyn Davies (Michal Ish-Horowicz) takes flight in Neverland at The Vaults
© S R Taylor Photography

One of the headline shows at this year’s Vault Festival is Neverland, an immersive theatre musical experience. Following its successful debut in Sheffield last year, the production has an eight-week run at the atmospheric tunnels below Waterloo station. The show is from The Guild of Misrule, the company behind the hit Great Gatsby Musical from last year’s festival. Arriving at The Vaults from the Leake Street tunnel, you follow the neon lights to reach Neverland at the end. As with many immersive theatre productions, you need to let down your guard and embrace the madness, preparing to take on a character or revert to childhood. For Neverland, be prepared to do both.

Upon entering, audience members are greeted by some of the Lost Boys and the Llewelyn Davies family, who quiz you with childlike wonder with innocent questions and Edwardian references. My friend, who works online, completely confused Michael Llewelyn Davies (Casey Jay Andrews) by trying to explain the internet and Google. The premise is the story of author JM Barrie’s (Dominic Allen) relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family, who inspired the characters of Peter Pan. There are many elements of the Pan storyline interwoven with how Barrie came up with the plot as we jump from Edwardian Kensington to Neverland to WWI.  Read the rest of this entry

Beauty And The Feast review: A fabulous and playful immersive, theatrical dinner experience

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Beauty and the Feast is a camp, high-energy and fun immersive cabaret dining experience

Arriving for Beauty and the Feast at The Vaults underneath Waterloo station, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. The show had been billed as a pantomime and dinner experience, which gave a hint of things to come. I’ve been to The Vaults quite a few times and love the venue for its versatility. We entered from the Leake Street tunnel entrance and the fairy tale vibe started immediately as we walked through the ‘magic mirror’ to the bar area. The bar was like a theatre set, with a melange of vintage furniture, old theatre seating, a disco ball, neon signs and drapes. We were one of the early arrivals so grabbed a suitably fantastically named cocktail to set the tone for the evening. As the bar got busier, a few characters mingled with the audience, breaking the ‘fourth wall’ as we enjoyed a chat with Fairy Liquid, the compere of the evening.

With everyone suitably loosened up with a couple of drinks, Fairy Liquid set up the evening’s agenda, with the panto itself loosely based on Beauty And The Beast. It isn’t long before the ‘Beauty’, aka Belle, arrives, in full Georgian drag splendour. Moving on to the dining room, the set design is amazing and really transports us to an 18th century French château with drapes and chandeliers. It’s a buffet, supper club setting so be prepared to make new acquaintances over your meal. The feast itself is very fairy tale like, featuring roast pumpkins, cauliflower cheese, plump sausages and blue cheesecake, followed by a ginger jelly and coconut ice cream dessert served in a tea cups [no chipped china ;-)] with mushroom-shaped meringues.

In between courses, we were treated to interludes of performance, with Belle and the Beast avoiding each other like the plague to the chagrin of Fairy Liquid, who is intent on getting them together with the encouragement of the audience. The climax of the feast gives us the happy ending we expect with the night getting suitably raucous with pop anthems, dancing on the table and some striptease. By this point, the audience were suitably tipsy and had really embraced the camp and spectacle of the event. With the cheesy soundtrack and constant flow of alcohol, it’s no surprise the evening ends on rather higher spirits than you would expect from a typical theatre experience. If you like immersive experiences with a high dose of booze, music and fabulousness, then check out Beauty and the Feast while it’s still on.

  • Beauty And The Feast is on from 6 October 2017 – 4 January 2018 at The Vaults (entrance via Leake Street tunnel), Launcelot Street, Waterloo, SE1 7AD. Nearest station: Waterloo. Shows run from Tues-Sun. Door open 6.30pm, Show starts 7.30pm. Age 16+. Tickets start from £35 (includes dinner, dessert and DJs). For booking, visit The Vaults website.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The dining room looks straight out of a fairy tale French château

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Party back in time at Home Front: Immersive Time Travel experience

© Partygeek

If you’re a fan of vintage or would love to time-travel, this new immersive experience could be right up your street. This December, revellers will have the chance to journey back to World War II with live music, adventures, cocktails and more.

‘Home Front: Immersive Time Travel’ will explore the untold stories from the 1940s, from the often ignored perspective of women, homosexuals and colonial soldiers. Upon arrival, guests will be asked a question and their answer can bring them in nine different directions. Follow your own story as you fight to get out of escape rooms, enjoy intimate performances and are forced to make a decision about your character’s future. Once your journey is completed, you’ll find out who your character was and their decision. The characters are based on real-life people, including a famous fighter pilot who lived openly as a homosexual, an Indian princess-turned-spy and other less well known London figures.

Time travellers will also be entertained with a live swing band and drinks from five separately themed bars. Guests’ entrance time will be staggered, with a range of ticket packages on sale.

  • Home Front: Immersive Time Travel takes place on 2 December 2017 at a secret east London location. 5.15pm-10.30pm. Tickets start from £25. For booking, visit DesignMyNight.

For the latest what’s on in London guide, click here.

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Vault Festival 2017: Music, theatre, film, comedy, parties and more at London’s fringe festival

© Will Hazel

The Vault Festival kicks off in Waterloo from 25 January – 5 March 2017.
© Will Hazel

Returning to Waterloo this winter is the biggest Vault Festival to date. Now in its fifth year, the six-week long fringe event will be expanding to two further local venues in addition to its home beneath Waterloo station. There’s something for everyone with music, theatre, film, comedy, parties, food, drinking and more.

Among the highlights of the festival, will be the chance to step into Jay Gatsby’s world in an immersive theatrical experience of The Great Gatsby.  Meanwhile, Superbolt Theatre return to the Vault Festival with two productions; their 2016 hit The Jurassic Parks, a hilarious spin on Spielberg’s blockbuster, and Mars Actually, a physical and funny vision of life on the red planet.

Turning circus on its head is Becoming Shades, a reimagining of the myth of Persephone using live music, aerial acrobatics, fire, dance and mime. The thought-provoking Thought To Flesh is a theatrical investigation into motor neuron disease (MND) using spoken word, multi-media and movement interpretation.

Vault Festival © Will Hazel

Head to The Vaults every weekend for the late-night parties
© Will Hazel

Meanwhile, movie fans will be able to enjoy the Vault’s Film Festival, featuring 20 different screenings. Among the premiers include dark_net staring Johnny Vegas and Love Comes Later, starring Sarita Choudhury (Homeland). There will also be a special screening of Red from award-winning director Branko Tomovic, a crime thriller about illegal backstreet surgery.

For party animals, the Vaults will be hosting late-night revelry every weekend, including the Galactic Love Valentine’s Ball, Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), The Nudge’s Great Gatsby Party, as well as the festival’s opening and closing parties presented by Time Out London.

Aside from the entertainment, there are plenty of opportunities for drinking and eating. The Balkano Kitchen will be serving dishes inspired by chef Martin H Shaw’s travels in Eastern Europe. There will be five bars across the three venues, with two themed bars presented in collaboration with Meantime beer and Campari. One of the more intriguing drinking spots will be The Neath, an immersive, subterranean members bar for the supernatural produced and curated by the team behind The Crystal Maze.

  • The Vaults Festival takes place from 25 January – 5 March 2017 at The Vaults, Leake Street, Waterloo, SE1 7NN and Network Theatre, 246a Lower Road, Waterloo, SE1 8SJ. Nearest station: Waterloo. Shows will also be on at Morley College, 61 Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7HT. Nearest station: Lambeth North (open from mid-Feb). For more information and tickets, visit The Vault Festival website.

For a guide to what else is on in March, click here.

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Time Run – The Celestial Chain: Taking immersive gaming to a whole new level

© Time Run

Travel through time and fight against evil at Time Run: The Celestial Chain
© Time Run

Since opening in Spring 2015, Time Run has become one of the capital’s leading immersive gaming experiences. Following the success of the original mission, adventurous gamers can go to a whole new level with The Celestial Chain. The pioneering gameplay format will challenge teams to push their mental skill and dexterity. The Celestial Chain is an innovative, interactive experience giving participants the opportunity to travel through fast-paced time zones.

Edwardian adventurer, inventor and scientist Luna Fox and her eccentric, robotic sidekick Babbage will be recruiting Time Runners to battle an ancient force. A rogue goddess has escape from her prison – the titular Celestial Chain – and is wrecking havoc as she travels through time. Gamers will journey from the distant past to the future, finding lost and hidden artefacts along the way to capture the dark goddess before she changes the world forever.

Teams will be able to compete for higher scores against other Runners and revisit to try to beat their own achievements. Larger groups will be able to compete in The Celestial Chain. Over two hours, seven teams will be able to complete the experience. Novice and experienced gamers will come together in teams of 3-5 people as they move between time periods piecing the story together by solving puzzles and searching for clues.

Time Run was created by a team game designers, production specialists and live event organisers, with the original Lance of Longinus receiving rave reviews from gamers following its launch in 2015. The original mission is still running alongside The Celestial Chain.

  • Time Run: The Celestial Chain runs from 24 November 2016 – 25 April 2018. At 9-15 Helmsley Place, London Fields, E8 3SB. Nearest station: London Fields. Tickets: Off peak (Tue–Fri before 5.30pm): from £25pp, Peak–(Tue-Fri 5.30pm onwards; all day weekends): from £35pp. Booking fees apply. Suitable for age 12+. Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult. For booking, visit the Time Run website.

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